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Traditions of Lancashire (Volume 2) online

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I came hither first to seek my wife! — Lead the way;
thou shalt be witness to our meeting — wife, children,
all. — Our bliss will to thee be misery, that the most
refined tortures could not inflict. On — on. "


Hildebrand, with imbecile agony, grasped at the very
stones for succour. He then rushed towards the bridge,
and, ere his purpose could be anticipated, with one wild
yell precipitated himself into the waters !

A few lines will suffice by way of explanation to this
unlooked-for termination of their sufferings.

When Lady Fairfax fled from the castle, in order to
elude his search, — for Hildebrand had the audacity to
threaten by force to make her his wife, — she threw off her
cloak and head-dress, laying them on the river's brink,
that it might appear as though she had accomplished her
own destruction. To the care of the faithful Alice she had
committed her children, and likewise the secret of her
concealment. Alice was in continual correspondence with
her unfortunate mistress ; and great was the joy and exul-
tation with which she communicated the arrival of a mes-
senger from her lord, whom she had long mourned as
dead. Providentially, no interview took place between
Hildebrand and the stranger on the night of his arrival ;
and sufficient time intervened to enable Lady Fairfax to
make a desperate attempt, in the hope of gaining possession
of the papers for which he had been sent. She well knew
Hildebrand would not relinquish the possession of creden-
tials that might ensure his lord's return. It was Lady
Fairfax who had alarmed him the same night by her ap-
pearance in his chamber. She hoped to have found him
asleep ; but was enabled to get possession of the writings
through his timidity and surprise. With these she met
the envoy, as he was returning from the castle. Disclos-
ing all the tortuous and daring villainy of Hildebrand, she
committed the real documents to his care, instructing
him at the same time to lay before her sovereign the nar-


rative of her wrongs. Soon was the captivity of Sir
Henry terminated; and joy, heightened by recollection of
the past, and chastened by the severity of their misfor-
tunes, attended them through the remainder of their
earthly career.

s 4



" He heerde a sunde but noughte he zee.
No touche upon his fleshe ther came ;
Bot a swedderin winde smot heavilee,

And heavilee brenn'd the fleckerin flame. "

Old Ballad.



The following tradition, like some of the preceding
legends, has been found, under various modifications and
disguises, connected with local scenery, and attaching
itself in the mind of the hearer to well-known places and
situations with which he may have been familiar.

SouTHPORT, a bathing-place of great resort on the
Lancashire coast, has been pointed out as the scene of the
following tragedy, which probably occurred long before
its salubrity and convenience for sea-bathing had rendered
this barren tract of sand the site of a populous and
thriving hamlet. From the mildness and congeniality of
the air to persons of weak and relaxed habits, it has been
not inaptly termed " the Montpelier of England."

But " the coast is probably as dangerous for shipping as
any round the kingdom. The sand-banks extend in a
northwesterly direction for at least six miles, so as to
render the navigation extremely difficult even to the
natives, and impracticable for strangers. Hence ship-
wrecks are very frequent ;" and "in a coming tide, ac-
companied by a strong westerly wind, it is almost im-
possible for boats to put off or to live in the sea."


" It not unfrequently happens that these accidents
occur in the night-time, in very hazy weather, or at ebb
tide. In the latter case, it is necessary for boats to be
taken in carts over the sands down to low water-mark,
before any assistance can be attempted."

" If the captain of the vessel be obstinate, and trust to
his own skill, he increases the danger. When the crews
of the vessels take to their own boats, and disobey the
directions of the Southport pilots, their jeopardy is ten-fold
greater, and their loss almost inevitable." *

Nearly one hundred vessels have been wrecked on this
coast within the last thirty years, and more than half of
^them totally lost. Of these calamities the particulars are
upon record. Wliich of them may have given rise to the
events here detailed we have no means of ascertaining.

Glazebrook's Southport.



It was at the close of a bright and memorable evening in
October, that I had carelessly flung the reins upon the
neck of my horse, as I traversed the bare and almost
interminable sands skirting the Lancashire coast.

On my right, a succession of low sand-hills, drifted by
the partial and unsteady blasts, skirted the horizon —
their summits strongly marked upon the red and lowering
sky in an undulating and scarcely-broken outline. Behind
them, I heard the vast and busy waters, rolling on, like
the voice of the coming tempest. Here and there some
rude and solitary hut rose above the red hillocks, bare
and unprotected : no object of known dimensions being
near, by which its true magnitude might be estimated,
the eye seemed to exaggerate its form upon the mind in
almost gigantic proportions. As twilight drew on, the
deception increased ; and, starting occasionally from the
influence of some lacerating thought, I beheld, perchance,
some huge and turreted fortress, or a pile of misshapen
battlements, rising beyond the hills like the grim castles
of romance, or the air-built shadows of fairy-land ....
Night was fast closing; I was alone, out of the beaten


track, amidst a desert and thinly-inhabited region ; a per-
fect stranger, I had only the superior sagacity of my steed
to look to for safety and eventual extrication from this
perilous labyrinth.

The way, if such it might be called, threading the
mazes through a chain of low hills, and consisting only of
a loose and ever-shifting bed of dry sand, grew every
moment more and more perplexed. Had it been daylight,
there appeared no object by which to direct my course, —
no mark that might distinguish whether or not my path
was in a right line or a circle : I seemed to be rambling
through a succession of amphitheatres formed by the
sand-hills, every one so closely resembling its neighbour
that I could not recognise any decided features on which
to found that distinction of ideas which philosophers term
individuality. In almost any other mood of the mind,
this would have been a puzzling and disagreeable dilemma ;
but at that moment it appeared of the least possible con-
sequence to me where the dark labyrinth might terminate.

Striving to escape from thought, from recollection, the
wild and cheerless monotony of my path seemed to convey
a desperate stillness to the mind, to quench in some
measure the fiery outburst of my spirit. It was but a
deceitful calm — the deadening lull of spent anguish: I
awoke to a keener sense of misery, from which there was
no escape.

But it was not to lament over my own griefs that I
commenced my story. Let the dust of oblivion cover
them ; I would not pain another by the recital. There
are sorrows — short ages of agony — into the dark origin
of which none would dare to pry ; one heart alone feels,
hides, and nourishes them for ever !


Night now came on, heavy and dark ; not a star twinkled
above me ; I seemed to have left the habitations of men.
In whatever direction I turned, not a light was visible ; all
fellowship with my kind had vanished. No sound broke
the unvarying stillness, but the heavy plunge of my horse's
feet and the hollow moan of the sea. Gradually I began
to rouse from my stupor : awaking, as from a dream, my
senses grew rapidly conscious of the perils by which I was
surrounded. I knew not but some hideous gulf awaited
me, or the yawning sea, towards which I fancied my
course tended, was destined to terminate this adventure.
It was chiefly, however, a feeling of loneliness, a dread,
unaccountable in its nature, that seemed to haunt me.
There was nothing so very uncommon or marvellous in
my situation ; yet the horror I endured is unutterable.
The demon of fear seemed to possess my frame, and
benumbed every faculty. I saw, or thought I saw, shapes
hideous and indistinct rising before me, but so rapidly
that I could not trace their form ere they vanished. I
felt convinced it was the mind that was perturbed, acting
outwardly upon the senses, rendered more than usually
irritable by the alarm and excitation they had undergone —
yet I could not shake off the spell. I heard a sharp rustling
past my ear ; I involuntarily raised my hand ; but nothing
met my touch save the damp and chilly hair about my
temples. I tried to rally myself out of these appre-
hensions — but in vain : reason has little chance of suc-
ceeding when fear has gained the ascendancy. I durst
not quicken my pace, lest I should meet with some ob-
struction ; judging it most prudent to allow my steed to
grope out his path in the way best suited to his own
sagacity. Suddenly he made a dead halt. No effort or


persuasion could induce him to stir. I was the more sur-
prised, from knowing his generally docile and manageable
temper. He seemed immoveable, and moreover, as I
thought, in the attitude of listening. I too listened
eagerly — intensely; my senses sharpened to the keenest
perception of sound.

The moan of the sea came on incessantly as before ;
no other sound could be distinguished. Again I tried to
urge him forward ; but the attempt was fruitless. I now
fancied that there might be some dangerous gulf or pre-
cipice just at his feet,' and that the faithful animal was
unwilling to plunge himself and his rider into immediate
destruction. I dismounted, and, with the bridle at arm's
length, carefully stepped forward a few paces, but I could
find no intimation of danger ; the same deep and level bed
of sand seemed to continue onwards, without any shelving
or declivity whatever. Was the animal possessed? — He
still refused to proceed, but the cause remained inscrutable
A sharp and hasty snort, with a snuffing of the wind in the
direction of the sea, now pointed out the quarter towards
which his attention was excited. His terror seemed to
increase, and with it my own. I knew not what to anti-
cipate. He evidently began to tremble, and again I
listened. Fancy plays strange freaks, or I could have
imagined there was something audible through the heavy
booming of the sea — a more distinct, and, as it were,
articulate sound — though manifestly at a considerable dis-
tance. There was nothing unusual in this — perhaps the
voice of the fisherman hauling out his boat, or of some
mariner heaving the anchor. But why such terror betrayed
by the irrational brute, and apparently proceeding from this
source ? for it was manifest that some connection existed


between the impulses of the sound now undulating on the
wind, and the alarm of my steed. The cause of all this
apprehension soon grew more unequivocal — it was evi-
dently approaching. From the sea there seemed to come,
at short intervals, a low and lengthened shout, like the
voice of one crying out for help or succour. Presently
the sounds assumed a more distinct and definite arti-
culation, " Murder ! — Murder ! " were the only words
that were uttered, but in a tone and with an expression
of agony I shall never forget. It was not like any thing
akin to humanity, but an unearthly, and, if I may so
express it, a sepulchral shriek — like a voice from the

I crept closer to my steed : nature, recoiling from con-
tact with the approaching phantom, prompted me thus
intuitively to cling to any thing that had life. I felt a
temporary relief, even from the presence of the terrified
beast, though I could distinctly perceive him shuddering,
yet fixed to the spot. The voice now came on rapidly ;
it was but a few paces distant. I felt as though I was the
sport and prey of thoughts too horrible for utterance.
Alone, I had to cope with tlie Evil One ; — or I was
already, perhaps, the victim of some diabolical agency.
The yell was close upon my ear ; I felt the clammy breath
of the grave across my face, and the sound swept by.
It slowly arose; — but the agony of the cry was more in-
tense, — more sharp and vehement the shriek of" murder !"
Grown bolder, or perhaps more desperate, I cried out,

" Where, in the name of ?" — I had scarcely uttered

the words, when a loud rushing cleft the air, and a crash
followed, as though some heavy body had fallen at my
feet. The horse burst from his bonds, galloi)ing from nie

VOL. ir. T


at full speed, and I stood alone ! In this appalling ex-
tremity, I approached the object of my fears. I bent to
the ground ; — stretching out my hand, my fingers rested
on the cold and clammy features of a corpse ! I well
remember the deep groan that burst from my lips; —
nature had reached the extremity of endurance — I felt a
sudden rush of blood to the heart, and fell beside my
ghastly companion, equally helpless and insensible.

I have no means of ascertaining the duration of this
swoon ; but, with returning recollection, I again put out
my hand, which rested on the cold and almost naked
carcass beside me. I felt roused by the touch, and started
on my feet — the moon, at this instant emerging from a
mass of dark clouds, streamed full on the dead body,
pale and blood-stained, the features distorted, as if by
some terrible death. Fear now prompted me to fly : I
ran as if the wind had lent me wings — not daring to
look back, lest my eyes should again rest on the grisly
form I had just left. I fled onwards for some time ; the
moon now enabling me to follow the beaten track, which,
to my great joy, brought me suddenly, at the turn of a
high bank, within sight of a cheerful fire gleaming through
a narrow door, seemingly the entrance to some wayside
tavern. Bursts of hilarity broke from the interior ; the
voice of revelry and mirth came upon my ear, as though
I was just awakening from a dream. It was as if I
had heard the dead laugh in their cold cerements. As
I slept across the threshold, the boisterous roar of mirth
made me shudder ; and it seemed, by the alarm visible in
the countenances of the guests, that my appearance
presented something as terrible to their apprehensions.
Every eye was fixed on me, as I seated myself by a


vacant table ; and I heard whisperings, with suspicious
glances occasionally directed towards the place where I
sat. The company, however, soon began to get the better
of their consternation, and were evidently not pleased at
so unseasonable an interruption to their mirth. I found
that some explanation was necessary as to the cause of my
intrusion, and with difficulty made them comprehend the
nature of my alarm. I craved their assistance for the
removal of the body ; promising, if possible, to conduct
them to the spot where the miserable victim was thrown.
They stared at each other during this terrible announce-
ment ; and, at the conclusion, I found every one giving
his neighbour credit for the requisite portion of courage,
though himself, at the same time, declining to participate
in the hazards of the undertaking.

" Roger towd me 'at he stood i' th' churchyard, wi'
shoon-bottoms uppermost, looking for the wench he wur
to wed through the windows : Ise sure he'll make noa
bank at a bogle."

" Luk thee, Jim, I canna face the dead ; but I wunna
show my back to a live fist, the best and the biggest o'
the country side — Wilt' smell, my lad ?"

Roger, mortified at this test of his courage, raised his
clenched hand in a half-threatening attitude. A serious
quarrel might have ensued, had not a sudden stop been
put to the proceedings of the belligerents, by an interesting
girl stepping before me, modestly enquiring where I had
left the corpse ; and offering herself as a companion, if
these mighty cowards could not muster sufficient courage.

" Shame on thee. Will ! " she cried, directing her
speech to a young man who sat concealed by the sliadow
of the projecting chimney; — " shame on thee, I say ; to be
T 2


o'erfaced by two or three hard words. Ise gangin, —
follow 'at dare.''

Saying this, she took down a huge horn lantern, some-
what dilapidated in the outworks, and burnt in various
devices, causing a most unprofitable privation of light. A
bonnet and cloak, hastily thrown on, completed her
costume ; and, surrendering the creaking lantern to my
care, she stood for a moment contemplating the dingy
atmosphere before she stept forth to depart. During these
ominous preparations, a smart sailor-looking man, whose
fear of his mistress' displeasure had probably overcome
his dread of the supernatural, placed himself between me
and the maiden, and taking her by the arm, crustily told
me that if I could point out the way, he was prepared to
follow ; — rather a puzzling matter for a stranger, who
scarcely knew whether his way lay right or left from the
very threshold. Thus admirably qualified for a guide, I
agreed to make the attempt, being determined to spare no
pains, in the hope of discovering the object of our

Company breeds courage. Several of the guests,
finding how matters stood, and that the encounter was
not likely to be made single-handed, volunteered their
attendance ; so that our retinue was shortly augmented
to some half dozen stout fellows. The vanguard was
composed of myself and the lovers ; the rest crept close
in our rear, forming their rank as broad as the nature
of the ground would admit.

Luckily I soon found the jutting bank, round which I
had turned on my first view of the house we had just left.
We proceeded in silence, — except that a whisper occa-
sionally arose from one of the rearmost individuals talking


to his boldei' neighbour in front, when finding his own
courage on the wane. Following for some time what ap-
peared to be the traces of recent footsteps, I hoped, yet
almost feared, that every moment I might stumble on the
bleeding corpse. An attendant in the rear now gave the
alarm ; — something he saw moving on our left, causing him
to make a desperate struggle to get before his companions.
This produced a universal uproar — each fighting for
precedency, and thoroughly determined not to be the last.
I soon beheld a dark object moving near, and the next
minute I was overjoyed to find my recreant steed, quietly
searching amongst the tufted moss and sea-reed for a
scanty supper. My associates knew not what to make of
this discovery. Some of them, I believe, eyed him with
deep suspicion ; and more than one glance was given at
his hoofs, to see if they were not cloven.

Order, however, being re-established, we again set
forward with what proved a useful auxiliary to our train.
We had not travelled far, ere I was again aware of the
peculiar snort by which he manifested his alarm ; and it
was with difficulty I got him onwards a few paces, when
he stood still, his head drawn back, as if from some object
that lay in his path. I knew the cause of his terror, and,
giving the bridle to one of my attendants, cautiously
proceeded, followed by the maiden and her lover ; who,
to do him justice, showed a tolerable share of courage —
at any rate, in the presence of his mistress. At length I
recognised the spot, where, yet unmoved, lay the bleedmg
carcass. The girl started when she beheld the grim
features, horribly drawn together and convulsed, as if in
the last agony. I was obliged to muster the requisite
fortitude to attempt its removal ; and, raising it from tiic


sand, with a little assistance I placed it across the horse,
though not without a most determined opposition on the
part of the animal. Throwing a cloak over the body, we
made the best of our way back ; and, on arriving at the
house, I found that the only vacant apartment where I could
deposit my charge was a narrow loft over the outhouse,
the entrance to which was both steep and dangerous.
With the assistance of my two friends, though with con-
siderable difficulty, it was in the end deposited there,
upon a miserable pallet of straw, over which we threw a
tattered blanket. On returning, I found the guest-room
deserted : the old woman to whom the tavern belonged
— the mother, as I afterwards found, of my female com-
panion — was hastily clearing away the drinking utensils,
and preparing for an immediate removal to the only
apartment above stairs which bore the honours of the
bedchamber. She kindly offered me the use of it for the
night ; but this sacrifice of comfort I could not allow ;
and, throwing my cloak over a narrow bench, I drew it
near the fire, determining to snatch a brief interval of
rest, without robbing the good woman and her daughter
of their night's repose.

It was now past midnight ; sleep was out of the question,
as I lay ruminating on the mysterious events of the few
past hours. The extraordinary manner in which the
murdered wretch had been committed to my care, seemed
an imperative call upon me to attempt the discovery of
some foul and horrible crime. With the returning day I
resolved to begin my enquiries, and I vowed to compass
sea and land ere I gave up the pursuit. So absorbed was
1 in the project, that I scarcely noticed the storm, now
bursting forth in a continuous roll from the sea, until one


wild gust, that seemed to rush by as if it would have
swept the dwelling from its seat, put an end to these
anticipations. I watched the rattling casement, expecting
every moment that it would give way, and the groaning
thatch be rent from its hold. Involuntarily I arose, and
approached the window. It was pitchy dark, and the
roar of the sea, under the terrific sweep of the tempest,
was truly awful. Never had I heard so terrible a conflict.
I knew not how soon I might be compelled to quit this
unstable shelter ; the very earth shook ; and every moment
I expected the frail tenement would be levelled to its
foundations. The eddying and unequal pressure of the
wind heaped a huge sand-drift against the walls, which
probably screened them from the full force of the blast,
acting at the same time as a support to their feeble con-
sistency ; sand and earthy matter were driven about and
tossed against the casement, insomuch that I almost an-
ticipated a living inhumation. The next gust, however,
generally swept off the greater portion of the deposit,
making way for a fresh torrent, that poured upon the
quaking roof like the rush of a heavy sea over a ship's

I was not destined to be left companionless in the midst
of my alarms. The old woman and her daughter, too
much terrified to remain quiet, came down from their
resting-place, which, being close within the thatch, was
more exposed to the tempest. A light was struck, and
the dying embers once more kindled into a blaze. The
old woman, whom I could not but observe with emotions
of awe and curiosity, sat cowering over the flame, her
withered hands half covering her furrowed and haggard
cheeks ; a starting gleam occasionally lighted up her grey
X 4?


and wasted locks, which, matted in wild elf-knots, hung
about her temples. Occasionally she would turn her
head, as the wind came hurrying on, and the loud rush of
the blast went past the dwelling. She seemed to gaze
upon it as though 'twere peopled, and she beheld the
" sightless coursers of the air " careering on the storm ;
then, with a mutter and a groan, she again covered her
face, rocking to and fro to the chant of some wild and
unintelligible ditty. Her daughter sat nearly motionless,
hearkening eagerly during the short intervals between
the gusts ; and, as the wind came bellowing on, she
huddled closer into the chimney-corner, whither she had
crept for protection.

" Such nights are not often known in these parts," said
I, taking advantage, as I spoke, of a pause in the warfare
without. The old woman made no answer; but the
daughter, bending forwards, replied slowly and with great
solemnity : — " Mother has seen the death-lights dancing
upo' the black scud: some ha' seen the sun sink down
upon the waters that winna' see him rise again fro' the

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